Wayne Snider
Wayne Snider
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series by Grace College students on local people’s memories of World War II. The series is in conjunction with the Old Jail Museum’s D-Day exhibit.

Wayne Snider was 13 when his older brother returned from the service station. He and his mother paused from playing Chinese checkers as his brother told the family that the “Japs bombed Pearl Harbor.” The family did not know what that meant for the country.

The town of Roaring Spring, Pa., where Snider was born in 1928, slowly became invested in the war as men they knew left for the service. They learned when they became POWs or were killed in action. The war grew personal in the small town and in the First Brethren Church. The residents listened to the radio broadcasts and read morning and evening newspapers every day.

As a child, Snider contributed to the war effort by dragging his wagon from street to street collecting scrap metal. He remembers being at school saving stamps on papers for purchasing war bonds. The playhouse in the yard stored newspapers for packing ammunition. His sister knit squares that were sewn together for afghans. He said that every drop of fat used in the home went into the Crisco can on the stove, then to the military for ammo.

When Snider was older, he drove his father, a doctor, to house calls. Rubber was scarce and new tires hard to get. People would recap old tires, usually poorly, leaving just the casing to drive on. His father was one of the only doctors left in the town when all the others went to war.

Snider and his brother joined the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). His father and a patient purchased an airplane together. His older brother quickly learned to fly. During his first year, Snider was a cadet in the CAP, which was mainly in charge of security as the military was increasingly needed overseas. The nearest airport, Martinsburg Airport, built in the mid-1930s, was designated for emergencies and mail transportation. The CAP monitored airports, helped with plane crashes, and flew over the ocean coast to spot submarines.

“Sometimes we were there all night and my dad, out making house calls, would come by the airport to see if we were still awake,” Snider said.

In the mountains of Pennsylvania, by Morrisons Cove, plane crashes were unavoidable. When there were crashes, the military would call CAP to locate planes. One time, they hiked up and located a plane, reported it, then went higher to get a better view. “I can still remember, we saw the pilot’s tie hanging in a tree,” Snider said.

He tells of a “Hell Diver” involved in the worst crash during that time. The plane crashed in a farmer’s field just short of the runway. There were two confirmed, one unconfirmed, men who died. Then next day, Snider saw men pick up body pieces and put them into bags. When Snider’s father arrived and asked to look at the victims, the emergency CAP team said it was too tragic for anyone to see. His father insisted that he was a doctor, and though it was too late for a doctor, they let him through.

Another time a helicopter, still a new invention then, had an emergency landing. The pilot was unharmed. Snider recalls the southern accent of the pilot as he said, “When the rotators go round it works well, but when they stop you drop like a leaf.”

Snider that he, his family and his town  supported World War II in any way that they could. He says it was a privilege to belong to a time when the country was united.

Fascinated with history, Snider went on to become a history professor at Grace College and concentrated on World War II. His collection of memorabilia includes a piece of the skin taken from a German V-2 rocket.

Though he doesn't walk like he used to, Snider’s mind is still sharp. He typically writes two papers a month researching and reviewing World War II. The two most recent were “The Lord is Never Late: See How Hitler’s Rockets Failed” and “History is His-Story.”   

Snider lives at Grace Village Retirement Community. He had three children: Jackie Snider, Jen Snider and Lisa Floyd. His wife, Hyla, is deceased.